The Blind Man at a Crosswalk

One of the most stressful moments of my life. I was sitting at the light waiting for it to turn green. I could hear my heart beating in my ears and my palms were sweaty on the steering wheel. I had seven minutes before the rental office closed and I had in hand the final key to turn in and terminate our rental contract. It had been a long three days and I was ready to collapse, mentally and physically.

As I stared blankly out into the intersection, I casually glanced at those waiting to cross. The crosswalk turned green and the countdown was on. 45 seconds, and I was a free bird, headed to finish this tumultuous, time sensitive process.

I noticed a blind man approach the end of the sidewalk cautiously, with his walking stick just beginning to venture out into the street. He walked carefully feeling his way through the crosswalk as if he´d done this many times before and was aware of the busy chaos ensuing around him. The blind man used his stick as his guide and ventured out, half way across the street.

That´s when I noticed a man crossing in the opposite direction. He zoomed passed the blind man, at a confident pace, apparently with business on his mind. He got to the other side of the street, turned around, and noticed the blind man still struggling to get across. He quickly turned around, took a firm grip of the blind man´s arm, and whispered something in his ear as he embraced him. With one arm around the blind man´s shoulder and the other hand firmly gripping the walking stick arm, he swept the blind man across the crosswalk in the same confident pace as when he had walked alone. The blind man, without hesitation, picked up his feet and appeared to be almost running as he accompanied the man leading him, totally trusting every step and now at a pace he´d never known with his walking stick. The two men walked on and I saw them disappear into a crowd.

That´s when it hit me, I had just seen my entire life flash in an instant before my very eyes. I once was blind, but now I see. That is exactly what Jesus did for me so many years ago. I was lost, hesitantly using my crutches to support my weaknesses and stumble through life. Until Jesus firmly grabbed onto me, and never let me go. He takes me at His pace now, and I lean on Him to lead me.

He is honestly all I need.


Zombie Days & Flashforward

She gnaws on everything in sight. I lay her down in her crib and her little arm stretches forcefully through the bars to grab onto me and hold tight to anything she can grasp. I'm not free until I gently pry the last thread of fabric from her little fingers. She hisses and babbles through the pacifier in her mouth and drool dribbles out. And finally, after months of a long awaited milestone, the reality that the baby is walking feels more like my greatest fear. She comes at me slowly, but surely, arms outstretched. My tired bones smile at her determination, and for a moment, I laugh that we both look like Zombies.

I cried when I saw her reach out from the couch and take 5 wobbly little steps, progressively faster and more desperate, into my arms. We've been practicing this for weeks, "walk to Mommy, now go back to Daddy". She finally did it! And she claps for herself with a big approving smile wiped clear across her precious little cheeks.

Now she's faster. I have to look when I shut the door because I realize her quick sneaky fingers could be exploring right in the door jam. I'm dreading that blood curdling cry as she's now into the fun of opening and slamming doors. I know from personal experience that the slamming gets increasingly stronger with each year that goes by, and peaks around 16. Whew, glad I've got 15 years to prepare for that.

And then I see her smile at me from across the room. She reserves those casual glances and pointed affection just for me, and Daddy too. I remember how she giggles in the morning when I open the door to rescue her from the great abyss we call her crib. I revel in that trained giggle she’s been refining for some months now, as she proudly wobbles herself across the sunlit floor. And as she falls into my arms with abandon, I realize 15 years is not enough time. She'll grow out of this soon enough. First grade will come and go and sloppy kisses and silly little grins will be old news. And I'll die a little inside, struggling between trusting this life cycle God has intended and wanting to change the mold and tell her 35 really is a more reasonable age to leave home and fly the nest.

I'll see that proud wobble again one day. I know her surrendered fall will be into the arms of a man she loves. And these Zombie days of Motherhood and so many life altering changes will seem like a piece of cake compared to releasing her on that day - her Wedding Day.

Her careful, slightly unsteady steps down the aisle, holding tightly onto her Daddy's arm will flood back memories. A bittersweet reminder of her first steps here in our home as she is exploring life and loving every knew accomplishment.

And I hope he'll breathe in this huge gift God is preparing for him. I can only hope he is wise enough to take it all in deep and cherish this little blessing I kiss every morning and night, this beautiful little girl full of life named Stella.

See Stella Walking Here


It was wrong, right from The Part

Anyone who has birthed a child can identify with this one. The wonderful, miraculous process of having a baby knit together in your innermost being has an innumerable amount of repercussions on your outermost person.

I don't know whose head of hair I carry around these days, but trying to become acquainted has been quite the annoyance. These lovely locks I've spent years getting to know have suddenly taken on the shape and temperament of the obnoxious little brother no one ever wanted (my little sister would never act this way!)

As if vacuuming wads of hair up every day wasn't bothersome on its own, now the hair that actually remains has been joined by new hair that behaves like a midlife crisis. So daily, I try to tame this new found friend who is actually more like a brother because you can pick your friends and NOT your family. I've realized that subconscious thought to do something radical has become more of a plausible plan to tackle this daily, grating problem. And in my frustration, I nearly succumbed to chopping it all off.

Yesterday however, I had a breakthrough.

It was all so very wrong, right from The Part!

How could I forget the fundamental importance of The Part! I tested a new Part and - Voila! I felt like a knew Woman. No,no. I felt like the Old Woman. The Young Lady. The Girl I worked so hard to grow up out of and now if I could get back to her, I'd be ever so grateful. Yes, Motherhood changes so many things. Outward and inward.

So I've got the Part right and I can get on with this "new-do". Sometimes that's all we really need. Get back to the Part, fix it, and see if every other strand doesn't just fall right into place.


Moving on Up

Yes we are!

As I write this we are having our bed delivered, and oh my, we cannot wait to sleep like Royalty tonight. It's going to take some getting used to surely, our view from atop our new bed will be stunning!

You might remember when we set out on this journey from the U.S. we left with 22 bags and a guitar. Obviously, a bed wouldn't fit in the suitcases(if it had you bet we would have packed one!) However, we did manage to disassemble many other household items and bring those with us. The larger items we were lacking we were able to borrow from various gracious givers here in Brazil. So the mattress we are borrowing has been perfect! We just were not able to find a bed frame or even a box spring that we could afford. As is everything else in Brazil, box springs and bed frames are an investment.

So since January 17, 2012 we've been just 12 inches off the floor. It hasn't actually been so bad, minus pregnancy belly and post surgery. God has always provided what we've needed and your personal creativity and humor truly shine when you accept the way things are. For example, the first time Stella fell off a bed in the U.S. I was sure we'd be in the E.R. I mean, it's a whole 3 feet down! But here in Brazil when she slides off our bed, I pick her up and say "you know that was only 12 inches, suck it up!" Just kidding. Some of you are thinking "how many times have you let your poor baby fall off the bed Mandy?!?!" My answer is never! She pulled herself off head first both times!

Back to the point, you always have to look on the bright side. Today that side comes with a view about 2 feet higher with storage underneath! Woo hoo for the bonus storage space! (Closets don't exist here).

Maicol and I celebrated 4 years of marriage in August and this week was our first major home purchase. We've never owned anything new and it's exciting to take a few more steps towards building our home. That's not to say we've never had anything of value. We've always sought to be deeply thankful and in awe of the way God has moved the hearts of people around us. We've been given many nice things for free and bought used furniture and vehicles from friends for very reasonable prices.

It's always fun to celebrate and thank God for his graciousness. We found this deal almost by accident, and that's how we knew it wasn't an accident at all, but divine intervention!


Cookie Mania

The timer will ding in 2.5 minutes and I'll be back to work! December is cookie month. We make chocolate chip cookies and wrap them up pretty to sell to friends and neighbors. They like to give this special treat to friends and family for Christmas, so far, it's proven to be nothing less than success! Welp, there's the ding, gotta run!


Home Sweet Home

One week ago we began our 24 hour journey back home to Brazil. 7 days has already seemed like months! We are settled in and getting back into the swing of things. We both caught a stomach virus en route. Maicol was nice enough to let me get sick the first day while he unpacked, and then he took his turn to hang his head over the toilet on day 2. Sharing is such fun :)

Our friends dropped meals by and Stella's god parents stocked our fridge with food. What a huge help. We found everything just as we left it. The white car we left parked in the garage for nearly 6 months however was black. A huge praise - our car started and runs beautifully despite sitting for so long.

Sunday at church was everything we hoped for and more. A big happy reunion. Of course everyone was happy to see Stella and how much she's grown, we were a side note. The pastors planned a lunch after church where we had lots of time to catch up with old friends and meet new people who have been coming to church. Sunday was the highlight of our week. We came home feeling so blessed to have so many caring friends.

Stella is still having a hard time with so many adjustments. Which caught me by surprise since her whole life as she's known it has been one big trip! I think part of the complication is that she is now at an age where she gets attached to people, places, smells, tastes etc. Brazil bananas are by far the best, but because she's never had them, she doesn't love them. She'll come around. A hunger strike can only last so long right?!? And the time change seems hard for her too. 3am brings this jolly little adventurer right to life!

Walking around the neighborhood in the late afternoon and grabbing a snack on the street has been a nice treat for all of us. Stella got her first taste of chocolate ice cream and based on her expression,her whole concept of "yummy" was completely overhauled. Surely she'll get used to all the new things, and if everything else fails, bribery with chocolate ice cream is definitely one idea I've tucked away.

From the moment the plane touched down we've been so thrilled to be back where we know we belong. It amazes me how God was building in me an anticipation to get here. Of course I was sad to say good-bye to my other home and definitely my family and friends, but when you know where you belong, it just feels right. Maicol has every reason to feel at home here; I on the other hand am delightfully amused how God has stirred in me the very same sentiments as if I'd also originated here.

As I sit in my living room - I hear the distant hum of honking horns, constant traffic, and the occasional rumble of diesel engines. There's a gentle breeze bringing in all the familiar smells of Home Sweet Home. Ironically, these same smells, sounds, and sentiments were the very things that felt like such a huge adjustment in the beginning. And in fact I try to imagine someone else sitting here and I realize, it's not everyone that would appreciate this ambiance. One more ironic and yet typical condition of pursuing the Creator of life itself. His ways are so mysterious and powerful and His simple yet immense existence boggles minds everyday - He is capable of creating amazing realities in the lives of those who will allow him. I'm astounded that my satisfaction and comfort today comes from the same source which brought me so much frustration and grief at one time.

Change is good, and so is God.


Blast Off!

If you know me well, you know I'm a "Get Ready, Get Set..." kinda gal. I've got my checklists, my re-check lists. I've been meticulously packing for a week and making my final farewell visits to Starbucks. On my mini-breaks between packing and tidying up, I find myself checking the weather in Porto Alegre. Each time I'm ecstatic to see 85 and sunny. "Blast Off" can get here soon enough.

We ate churrasco today with family and I kept imagining we were at our favorite Churrascarias in Brazil. I had to imagine because the meat was just not salty enough to be authentic churrasco from the South. However, it was a delicious dining experience.  

It has really amazed me how ready I feel.  I'd begun to wonder about a month ago if I would dread the return date as it approached.  But true to God's perfect timing, He's readied me at just the right moment.

I'm thankful for a God that can change my heart in many different circumstances. He knew September 18 would come and go and that I might feel worried we'd "missed the bus". Yet in His great compassion, He secretly showed my heart the blessings He had for me here. He tweaked my worry into a chance to humbly admire His perfection and compassion. He is truly a "right on time" kind of Wonder Worker.


$5,000 Reasons to Keep praying

We all have those seasons. Mine usually looks like winter - everything has a bleak and sad tone of blue overshadowing it. Snow is nice for a few hours, then I'm ready for summer again. So my winter was melted away today. I found myself singing, and leaping through the kitchen. Songs I forgot I knew! Songs thanking God for an awesome answer that ended a long, treacherous winter.

What do your long, grueling, at times confusing seasons of prayer look like?

The seasons that keep you begging - your heart staying above it's normal beats per minute for months on end. You think you're not worrying, but you realize when a sudden calm moment of peace overtakes you that it feels great to have forgotten what has been eating at you for so long and has estranged you from this surprising moment of calm in your soul. You begin to enjoy these fleeting moments of serenity since you've forgotten that pitiful worry which plagues your every to do list. And just as you settle in to the free feeling in the pit of your stomach, reality drops in and you remember that horrible worry. And to think you had mistakenly forgotten it for one glorious moment?!?!

Now the peace, tranquility, and freedom is real. The trial is over and the answer has come, and this time - it's THE answer I'd hoped for. Although this is not always the case, and God is still sovereign and perfect no matter what answer He gives, today I rejoiced with sheer amazement that what I'd pleaded for, He thought was a worthy request.

Blue Cross paid the bills from Stella's birth - in full! To some of you you're like - "yea, that's what insurance is supposed to do." But there were quite a few setbacks and lawsuit scares... so in the end - it's resolved.done.answered.checked-off. and I can't stop thanking God for the way He answered (so many details that would bore you to tears) and His perfect timing. I'm making up my own verses to "God is so good" because the ones I know are all played out in my head, I've song it all day.

Thank you to each of you who prayed us through. My knees may be calloused but my heart is full, my faith is bolstered, and my God showed Himself able, again.

"He's so good to me..."



We had an awesome time unplugged. Well, mostly unplugged. We visited a few cabins in Tennessee and one of them had no cell service or WiFi at all. 

Yea, you old folks are laughing like " you don't remember life without cell phones and internet do you!?!" Well we spent 8 days unplugged and really loved all the extra time we found and the clarity of thought we discovered. We liked it so much we came home early! - feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to plug back in to our ministry in Brazil. 

The countdown is on. In 12 days we will be home. And we are so excited about all God has put in our hearts to do for his glory! We decided our retreat was so vital, we are going to "unplug" once a month from now on. And who knows when I'll reactivate my FaceBook, if ever.